Philippine basketball

Cone all praises for Boatwright as SBP initiates naturalization talks

Delfin Dioquino

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Cone all praises for Boatwright as SBP initiates naturalization talks

LAYUP. Bennie Boatwright in action for the San Miguel Beermen in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

PBA Images

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone says Bennie Boatwright resembles current naturalized player Justin Brownlee

MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone did not have to look far to find Gilas Pilipinas’ next candidate for naturalization.

Cone handpicked Bennie Boatwright as the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) initiated talks for the San Miguel import to become a naturalized player and suit up for the national team.

“I was the one who asked for him. I think he’s a tremendous talent. He’s got great size and he can play in and out. He’s very versatile,” said Cone on Sunday, March 31.

Boatwright took the PBA by storm when he came in as a replacement import for the Beermen in the last Commissioner’s Cup, steering the legendary franchise to a record-extending 29th championship.

A stocky forward with a soft touch from long range, Boatwright gave Cone headaches as he and San Miguel swept Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals, where he averaged 29 points, 11.3 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks.

It marked the first time the Gin Kings got swept in a best-of-five affair under the tutelage of Cone.

Boatwright and the Beermen then completed a six-game conquest of Magnolia in the finals to lift the Commissioner’s Cup trophy.

The 27-year-old gunner finished the conference with averages of 30.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 13 games.

Cone said Boatwright resembles resident Ginebra import and current Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Justin Brownlee.

“He kind of reminds me of a young Justin, just like three or four inches taller. We’ll see. He’s a young guy,” said Cone.

Cone, though, made it clear Brownlee will continue to don the national colors as the Philippines competes in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia, in July.

“[W]ithout a doubt, and this is written in stone right now, Justin is our guy. And Bennie is going to be his backup,” said Cone.

After his San Miguel stint, Boatwright took his act to the Chinese Basketball Association, where he currently plays for the Shanxi Loongs.

The SBP said on Monday that Boatwright expressed his desire to return to the PBA “as soon as possible since he has developed a strong connection with the Philippines.”

If his naturalization pushes through, Boatwright will join a pool of naturalized players that also includes NBA player Jordan Clarkson and big man Ange Kouame.

“Boatwright is currently 27 years of age, making him a solid choice for naturalization as the SBP seeks to secure the future of the national team alongside working on its current goals,” said the federation. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.